Teach Your Children

Dear Angelina

I went to visit your boys today and I just wanted to let you know that I think they’re doing okay, given the circumstances. I met Njabulo in Howick at the Shoprite store. We bought some groceries as well as some treats for my visit and then he asked if he could also have some shoe polish. That boy sure does know how to tug at my heart strings! We drove through the mist, up hill and down dale until we came to Mafakhathini and I have to say, I think it is a rather nice place. The peach tree in the yard was full of fruit and on the other side of the valley a brass band was in full swing. It was all a bit surreal. Njabulo explained that it was a funeral procession. I told him that I wanted them to play at my funeral and he laughed.

Njabulo is a little bit small for his age but he is quite the big brother to James. His skin is not as good as it could be but his teeth and fingernails are clean; a mother notices these things! He poured our Sprite into clean glasses and arranged the muffins and biscuits on a plate. How did he learn to do that? It must have been you who taught him, Angelina. James is very quiet. It’s going to take a bit of effort to get to know him. However, when I gave them some of Alex’s old clothes and shoes, his face did light up as he bagsed some of the items.

Njabulo gave me a guided tour of the house, which was as clean as could be expected from two boys. I am a bit worried about the electrics, bare wires all over the show and the cooking set up is decidedly dangerous. When we sell our house in Durban perhaps I can get a stove properly installed for them. Your old room was a bit creepy for me, your clothes are still piled high on a chair and there are the remains of some goat’s entrails hanging from the ceiling. Njabulo said it was a custom to bring the remains of the dead home, but that they used a goat as a substitute. The room smelt musty as if it is kept closed up. I don’t think they like to go in there. Perhaps that’s where you died.

I met your sisters, Emily and Laminia, and they seem very nice people. They keep an eye on the boys and feed them. When Paulus died, his employers paid you out R70 000. I discovered that your employers paid you nothing when you became too sick to work for them after more than 20 years of service. Kho told me their parting gift to you was a thank you card! I asked him what they gave him when they left the farm after he had worked for them for 19 years and he laughed and told me they gave him a card as well.

Of course the money has gone now. That’s why Njabulo came looking for your employers and found me instead. I gave him their number but when he phoned, he was told that they had no money. He’s resourceful though and he’s slowly but surely roping me in. You had such hopes for your boys and I have a feeling that they are going to make you proud.

They have been trying for 4 years to access government grants with no success, so I’m going to visit the welfare office next week to try and get the boys what they are entitled to. And we’ll take it from there. To be honest, I don’t know what else to do.

There’s a foundation one lays and if it’s built on love it will hold, no matter what. Your boys are holding on. I wish I could tell you more.


a younger Njabulo and Alex collecting pine cones


James, about 5 years old


Njabulo, in his kitchen


from left: Kho, James, Njabulo and their cousin

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One Response to Teach Your Children

  1. Louise Groom says:

    This brought a tear to my eye… You are amazing Cathy.

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